Someone please tell Malcolm Brown to tie his shoes tighter.
The freshman had a number of firsts in Saturday’s game against UCLA. He started for the first time, he rushed for 100 yards for the first time and he scored his first career touchdown, crossing the goal line as one of his shoes went flying.
That, along with breakout performances from Case McCoy and D.J. Grant, was more than enough to give No. 24 Texas an impressive 49-20 victory over the Bruins.
Making his first start at quarterback, McCoy went 12-for-15 with 168 yards and two touchdowns, both to junior tight end Grant. Grant caught a third touchdown from Jaxon Shipley as well.
“Very few people thought we would be 3-0 with our non-conference schedule,” said head coach Mack Brown. “What we’ve got to do is to keep working because we’re not nearly as good as we can be.”
Brown had only two carries before halftime in the Longhorns’ first two wins over Rice and BYU but handled the larger workload well, rushing the ball 22 times and averaging five yards per carry, for a final total of 110 yards. Even more impressive was his 16-yard touchdown run in the second quarter. Brown broke through the middle of the Texas offensive line and dragged multiple UCLA defenders into the end zone while leaving his right shoe behind.
“I knew he’d probably break 100 yards,” McCoy said. “Malcolm’s a great player for us. I think we all knew that coming in and we’re just glad that he’s stepping up and making plays like he is.”
The true freshman wasn’t a part of UCLA’s 34-12 victory over Texas last season, but many of his teammates were, although they insisted “revenge” was not in their vocabulary as they prepared for their rematch with the Bruins. Nonetheless, the memory of the 22-point defeat provided the motivation necessary to return the favor as a trio of first-quarter interceptions led to three Texas touchdowns and a 21-0 lead the team did not give up.
“This is a team that came out and dominated us last year so we wanted to make sure we gave this team a little bit of payback,” said senior linebacker Keenan Robinson, who tied two others with a game-high nine tackles.
McCoy didn’t take any snaps in the Longhorns’ loss to the Bruins a year ago but still had some troublesome memories lingering in the back of his head. His older brother and current Cleveland Browns signal-caller, Colt McCoy, played the final game of his illustrious Texas career at the Rose Bowl in the national title game two seasons ago. The two-time All-American suffered a stinger in the first quarter that knocked him out of the contest and the Longhorns fell to Alabama, 37-21. The younger McCoy, however, ensured that at least one member of his family would triumph in Pasadena.
“That was one of my goals, to come in here and get a win for [Colt],” McCoy said. “That was not a fun memory of mine the last time he was here.”
One of the best aspects of McCoy’s performance was his ability to avoid pressure in the pocket, keep his eyes downfield and make crisp throws in critical situations. He did it first on his 45-yard touchdown toss to Grant and again on a 25-yard strike to Mike Davis.
Texas needed all 25 of those yards to move the chains thanks to 5-foot-9, 175-pound Marquise Goodwin, the smallest player on the field, being flagged for a personal foul after leaving a hapless Andrew Abbott. The hit was the catalyst for a physical effort by a Texas team that out-muscled UCLA, something it failed to do last year.
“Marquise could play defense,” said junior safety Kenny Vaccaro. “It was a great hit.”
Texas got both hard hits and big-time catches from unlikely sources as Grant had the game of his life, scoring on half of his six catches. The Longhorns’ tight ends combined for two catches this season before coming to the Rose Bowl and no Texas pass catcher had more than two touchdown receptions last season, making Grant’s performance as remarkable as it was unexpected.
“If any team plays as hard as they did today, anyone can score three touchdowns,” Grant said. “Who’s it going to be this week? Who’s it going to be next week? Everybody’s going to have their moment.”
Shipley, who hooked up with Grant for his third touchdown, displayed his versatility again as he completed a pass for the second straight game, caught five passes and ran for 15 yards. The true freshman was one of many Longhorn rookies to play big roles this weekend and this season. Shipley, Brown, quarterback David Ash and running back Joe Bergeron are just a handful of first-year players making their mark.
“This is probably the biggest role any freshman class has played since we’ve been at Texas,” Brown, who’s in his fourteenth year as the Longhorns’ head coach, said. “I think one of the keys is that the older guys are helping the young guys. They’ve welcomed them and they know we need them to win the games.”
Texas goes into their bye week with a 3-0 record and will face Iowa State, who is also 3-0, on Oct. 1.
Maybe with the extra time between games, someone can get around to finding Brown some shoes that won’t fall off so easily.